Safe Sleep and SIDS Prevention

If you are a parent, chances are you’ve spent time worrying about SIDS.

I remember the first time my daughter slept through the night. I woke up feeling wonderfully rested and alert. Then I remembered my baby girl and I panicked. SIDS ran through my mind and I prayed she hadn’t stopped breathing during the night. I shot out of bed so fast that the cat went flying and I ran to my daughter’s bedroom. I threw open the door and ran to the side of her crib to find her sleeping peacefully. Right then and there, I made the decision to stop worrying. Of course, I still thought about it occasionally, but I didn’t fear it like I used to. I knew that we were following all of the Health Canada guidelines¹ and she was as safe as she could possibly be in her crib.

My advice to you, is to take every precaution possible, read the guidelines on safe infant sleep and let go of your fear. Enjoy your new baby and stop worrying about SIDS because you’ve done all you can do to prevent it.


Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), is the unexplained death of a seemingly healthy infant (0-12 months of age) during sleep with no medical explanation. SIDS is a very rare occurrence (0.5 per 1,000 live births in Canada), so don’t let worry and fear take hold of you. Since the Back to Sleep Campaign started in 1994, the rate of SIDS has dropped drastically.

There are plenty of things you can do to lower your baby’s risk:

Start prenatal care as soon as you find out that you’re pregnant.

Have a healthy pregnancy – Take prenatal vitamins, eat a healthy diet and don’t smoke or drink alcohol.

Keep your baby away from cigarette smoke – If you, or anyone in your house smokes, change clothes and wash hands and face before holding the baby.

Put your baby to sleep on his back – This can reduce the risk of SIDS by up to 50%

Breastfeed your baby if you can – SIDS rates tend to be lower for breastfeed babies. If you smoke cigarettes, do so immediately after a feed to allow your body time to eliminate the chemicals from your milk. It is better to breastfeed than formula feed, even if you smoke.

Provide a safe sleeping environment – No soft cushions or pillows, bumper pads, loose blankets or stuffed animals in the crib. Make sure the crib or bassinet mattress fits properly into the frame with no gaps where your baby could become trapped.

Never bed-share if you have taken medication that causes drowsiness (primary or side effect), or consumed alcohol or drugs.

Never co-sleep with your baby on the sofa, reclining chair, or anywhere else he could be dropped, suffocated, rolled on or become trapped.

Does bed-sharing increase the risk?

This is a controversial subject. Some experts say bed-sharing can reduce the risk of SIDS, while others claim it can be dangerous for your baby.

While this is a personal decision and one best made by you and your partner, my professional stance on this subject is that a baby is safest in his own crib or bassinet.

Room-sharing is a form of co-sleeping, and not to be confused with bed-sharing. Room-sharing is when the crib or bassinet is in the parent’s room and can even be directly beside the parent’s bed. The baby and the parents do not share a sleep surface. This is preferred by most parents in the beginning for ease of breastfeeding and peace of mind. Bed-sharing is when the baby is sharing a sleep surface with one or both parents. If you choose to share a bed with your baby, make sure you understand how to do it safely.

If you have any questions about safe sleep, please contact me at 250-552-5080 for a free 15-minute consultation.


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Dani Summer

Certified Sleep Sense Consultant


Why Won’t You Sleep, Baby?

When my daughter was a baby, I remember sitting in her room, holding her and wondering, “Why won’t you sleep?” Every night, it was the same. She would sleep for an hour or two, wake, then I would nurse and rock her back to sleep and put her down in the crib.

When she was 9 months old, I hit my breaking point. I was trying to put her to bed one night, so we did the usual routine. I bathed her, diapered her and dressed her in pajamas. We went to her room for a story and I nursed her until she fell asleep. I lowered her into her crib, and as I was trying to slide my hands out from under her, she woke up. Now we had to start the whole process over again. This had happened a few times before, and the second time almost always did the trick. Not this time. This song and dance went on for over two hours! By the time I was finished getting her to fall asleep, and into her crib without waking her, my dinner was cold, I had missed the show I had been wanting to watch all week and my husband had fallen asleep on the couch. And, to make matters worse, she only slept a total of 20 minutes before waking up, so I had to go back to her room and rock her to sleep once more.

We often make excuses when out babies aren’t sleeping well. She’s hungry, thirsty, teething, gassy, etc. But often, the truth is that the baby simply hasn’t learned how to sleep independently, which means he hasn’t learned how to stay asleep independently either.

No one actually ‘sleeps through the night’. Everyone, including adults, wake for brief periods between sleep cycles. Usually this period of awake time is so brief that we don’t even remember having been awake at all. The difference between adults and babies, is that adults know how to put themselves back to sleep because we don’t rely on an external prop to fall asleep at bed time. We have a strategy. The difference between a sleep association (prop) and a sleep strategy (internal process) is that we don’t need any help to recreate a strategy. Imagine falling asleep every night, for years with your partner rubbing your back. Now, what if he was called away on a business trip and you all of a sudden had to sleep alone? It would probably be very difficult to fall asleep without him there. The same goes for babies who are breast fed to sleep or require a pacifier or motion to drift off. When those middle of the night wake ups happen, what should be a brief arousal before sliding into another cycle of sleep, turns into a full wake up. The environment has changed and now the baby needs help to recreate what was going on when he fell asleep. If he’s never learned that he can, in fact, fall asleep on his own, he will assume that being held, nursed or sucking on a soother is the only way to fall asleep. Props work wonders in getting a baby to fall asleep initially, however, they are not conducive to sleep in the long run.

The good news? Babies are quick learners! Sleep is a skill and we CAN teach our babies to fall asleep independently and fall back to sleep independently during the night. If you’d like to learn how, give me a call at 250-552-5080 for a free 15 minute consultation.


Certified Sleep Sense Consultant